Seven Tricks of Law School Networking 101


It’s that time of year again. Time for political science, philosophy and women’s studies undergraduate majors from across the country to delay real world responsibility for three more years as they enroll in law school. As young people embark on their careers as lawyers, I want to impart some valuable advice I wish someone had shared with me.

Now, more than ever, you will hear a lot about the importance of “networking.” In any other walk of life, networking means getting to know folks while participating in the things your community does. But that’s not what they mean in law school.

When the people at your law school utter the magical word “networking,” what they really mean is attending an endless series of awkward social mixers where law students and lawyers sequester themselves along opposite walls like awkward boys and girls at the 5th-grade dance.

What they mean is a series of forced, uncomfortable lunches where you attempt to make conversation with lawyers who, years ago, forgot how normal people talk. People who’ve lived their entire adult lives by the tenth of the hour. What they mean is a series of otherwise fruitless social interactions where you pretend to give a hoot about things that no sane person cares about and accept that no one gives two shits about you unless you have a single-digit class rank (and even then, it’s dicey).

So, to prepare for these gut-wrenching, mind-numbing “networking” events, here are a few exercises that can steel you for the boredom, humiliation, and awkwardness:

1Practice talking to people who exhibit obvious disinterest when speaking with you. I recommend going to Radioshack and chatting with employees. Because they are some of the few who still work on commission, they are obliged to listen to you chatter. But be sure to let them know in the first moments of the conversation that you have absolutely no intention of buying anything. Then proceed to talk to them for 60 minutes.  This exercise in futility will prepare for you for the process of lunching with people who have no job to offer and couldn’t give a damn about you.

2Learn to host an interview. Forget the Emmanuel’s and fast-track summer classes. If you really want to sharpen your skills, take a community college course on journalism, but only attend classes related to interviewing subjects for a story. Learn to ask a person a million questions without ever being asked one back. Once you’re able to sustain 90 minutes of chitchat purely by generating questions aimed at self-important a-holes who talk without ever feeling stressed or hurt that they know nothing about you, you’re ready to network.

3Learn to withstand unnecessary pauses. Call friends and family in Europe on a land-line. This is the best way to condition yourself to waiting 3-4 seconds for a response to even the most mundane statements or questions in a conversation. This skill will prove particularly important if you hope to work in BigLaw, since 90% of Big Firm partners respond EXACTLY like they’re making a long-distance phone call to Asia. In 1985.

4Tell everyone you know to start ignoring your voicemails and emails. Normal people are hurt when their e-mails go unanswered and their calls un-returned. Get used to it. You need to start developing interpersonal callouses. Lawyers are assholes. You’re a nobody. Worse yet, you’re a nobody who wants a job. They will not write you back. And if they do, it’ll be a 1-3 word response that comes nowhere close to responding. No one will call you back. Best to harden your heart now.

5Volunteer in a hospital treating patients with Tourette’s. There’s a good chance that if you’re lucky enough to get a job, you’ll be surrounded by verbally abusive people. Best to get used to the swearing and nonsensical screaming now. At the very least, the lack of a conventional social moray will disabuse you of any expectation you might have that people will be polite. Lawyers are not polite. The vast majority lack even the most common of social graces.

6Talk to random strangers everywhere you go. Practice until you’ve tricked yourself into not noticing the “Why in the f@&k are you talking to me?” look. Rest assured, lawyers will get that look even when they’re at a networking event where the entire purpose is for them to talk to law students. Think this is satire? It’s not.

7Read books on decay rates of South American foliage. Why? Because if you expose yourself to enough brutally uninteresting material, there’s a small chance you might actually find idle chitchat about mergers and acquisitions interesting.

These seven tips will help things go much more smoothly for you.  And I’m only half kidding. Remember: People don’t hate lawyers because of what lawyers do. They hate us because of who and how many of us there are.

Guest posts at Bitter Lawyer are often filed under the name of Bitter Contributor. You too can become a contributor, though we are fairly picky. Find out how.

29 Comments

  1. Guano

    July 29, 2009 at 2:30 am

    I learned to network in my country and secured passage to the USA in 1998.  Now that I am here with law degree, I am interested in networking only with attractive lawyer women who are interested in me and in marriage.  Is there a website containing only attractive women lawyers where networking for the purpose of marriage is the purpose?  I believe such a networking site would do well, as I know 3 other men from my country also interested in networking with attractive female professionals.  Please to advise.

  2. BL1Y

    July 29, 2009 at 3:01 am

    1-4,6 could all be consolidated into one exercise: Try to pick up girls who are way hotter than you.

  3. To guano or whoever?

    July 29, 2009 at 5:26 am

    That was retarded pal, not funny at all.

  4. Tangy.Nihilista.Barcelona

    July 29, 2009 at 5:32 am

    Sorry Guano, “attractive lawyer women” is a major oxymoron…

  5. BL1Y

    July 29, 2009 at 6:14 am

    (Since there’s no comments for the polls…) Whether it’s okay to call yourself a lawyer before being admitted to the bar depends on context.  Calling yourself a lawyer while acting as a lawyer is bad; calling yourself a lawyer in pretty much any other situation is fine.  Girlfriend’s mom asks what you do, you’re a lawyer.  Grandpa’s friend asks you to look over his will, you’re not a lawyer.  Why is this even a question?

  6. None

    July 29, 2009 at 7:51 am

    The Tourette’s hospital visit would also be a good exercise for dealing with clients.  (Well, for those of us not fortunate enough to land in BigLaw- clients who can pay the big bucks tend to be more sane than your run-of-the-mill P.I. plaintiff).
    BL1Y: exactly right on the calling yourself a lawyer situation, not sure why the debate either.

  7. None

    July 29, 2009 at 8:13 am

    OK, before I get hammered on the “fortunate enough to land in BigLaw” comment; I live in a small town in the Midwest where it is not an option.  The comment was not an affront to those who put in the time, effort and sleepless nights to do well at great schools but a commentary on the caliber of clients that exist for those of us outside BigLaw.

  8. Craig

    July 29, 2009 at 8:32 am

    That article was classic. Dead on. It is sad but ridiculously true.

  9. Schaddenfreude

    July 29, 2009 at 9:22 am

    @ None – The debate over calling yourself a lawyer or not is regarding the Wurtzel issue. She is not admitted to the bar, but has her JD. Therefore, can she call herself a lawyer? The common conception right now is that if you have your degree, you are a “Lawyer” but when you pass the bar, you become an “Attorney.” Not sure how I feel either way, but that’s the backstory.

  10. BL1Y

    July 29, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Schadden: Is the question somehow different for Wutzel?  It still just depends on the context.  I don’t think it matters which word you use.  If she’s in an interview and the person asks what she’s doing now with her life and she says she’s an attorney, no problem.

  11. Lawless

    July 29, 2009 at 11:07 am

    killer article really helpful

  12. A Man Who Knows

    July 29, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    BL1Y, relax. Your answer is still fine. I think all Schaddenfreude was trying to do was explain why the question had made it into the poll today. My guess is that the poll reflects posts on Gawker about Wurtzel’s interview here.

  13. BL1Y

    July 29, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    I think it’s actually in response to the article on AboveTheLaw discussing this very question.

  14. A Man Who Knows

    July 29, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    BL1Y, go to the source and follow the links backward. Gawker was there first.

  15. Lady lawyer

    July 29, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    Not all lawyers walk on water.  Just avoid the biggggg mistakes in Bitter News.  Like your article

  16. BL1Y

    July 29, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Hey Bitter Lawyer editors, consider the comments on this thread evidence that you need to allow comments on the polls!  (Also, please add an archive of polls, so we can see how the results turn out.  Isn’t that the idea of a poll in the first place?)

  17. Alma Federer

    July 29, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    For once I agree with BL1Y.  He does have the best interest of this site at heart, so he’s not all that bad.  He does need to learn a little manners and to respect his elders, though.  We never get the final result of the polls, so why don’t you announce them?  After all, we are the people who give the inputs.

  18. lady lawyer

    July 29, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    why not have your comments on Twitter

  19. Dude

    July 29, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Networking is so awkward with lawyers.

  20. Ferry

    July 30, 2009 at 10:12 am

    man BL1Y has alot of opinions.

  21. The Author

    July 31, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    The lack of comments on this piece (as opposed to the poll) speaks loudly of its truth (and thus lack of controversy).

  22. BL1Y

    August 3, 2009 at 4:47 am

    Bitter Contributor Fail

  23. Be Sharp.

    August 6, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    I read this with fervor, committing every suggestion to memory, until the last line totally undercut me. So what is your advice for the “hot girl” law student? Be as callous and sardonic as you want, just tell me how the fuck to act.

  24. Craig

    August 10, 2009 at 7:50 am

    Be Sharp … you will have worst type of guys, sleazebags, not so subtly hitting on you; making sexual innuendos. Most of them will be married with kids, but that will not stop them. My best advice to you is to flirt back a little bit. Don’t be afraid to put these guys in their place in a flirty, innocent type way.  These guys will like to know that you will be able to stand up for yourself when push comes to shove.  And they will shove.  Can you handle an onslaught of sexually suggestive conversation?  Can you hold your own with aggressive, socially awkward guys without insulting them too much?  You have to find the right balance between staying professional, proving your merits as a lawyer and also flirting just enough to keep these guys happy.

  25. Be Sharp

    August 12, 2009 at 6:31 am

    Sounds just like High School… and College and every job I’ve ever had. Plus as far as male demographics go, the 55+ is a breeze.
    Am I going to have to bat my eyes at their circa 1980’s, fatherly wisdom? I had hoped those days were over.

  26. www.pinkshoelawyer.blogspot.com

    September 8, 2009 at 7:23 pm

    I remember walking around stupified for my first months of work, wondering why the hell some jackass partner was so goddamn MEAN to me when he didn’t even know my name. 
    And then I learned that lawyers were assholes.  And began worrying when one was nice to me.
    Meant he wanted something that normal human beings wouldn’t want to give…my saturday nights.  in any capacity.

  27. Pacific Reporter

    September 9, 2009 at 5:51 am

    Why is this showing up in my RSS news feed again?

  28. Alaric

    November 14, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Can we ban Guano? He sounds like a freak!

  29. Guano Dubango

    October 10, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    I stand by my comments from over 2 years ago. I still want to network only with beautiful women who are capable of bearing me issue. What is so wrong about that?

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